Electricity price hikes will have a debilitating effect on older South Australians

Media Release 16th June 2016

COTA SA has expressed surprise and concern about the electricity price increases announced by Origin and AGL this week.

Chief Executive Jane Mussared says the increases will have a debilitating effect on the quality of life of older people whose standard of living is already compromised by the low rate of the Aged Pension, the lack of availability of low cost housing and rising living costs.

"These latest price hikes for electricity represent much higher than cost of living increases for households locked into low and fixed incomes," Ms Mussared said.

Choice research undertaken in 2014 shows that there is already considerable anxiety from households around Australia about the cost of power and that research identified electricity as the number one household cost of living concern as reported by 79% of people.

Ms Mussared says older people are being forced to cut back on essential food and heating and cooling, compromising their health and well being, in order to pay their power bills.

"We're understandably very concerned that these price increases reduce the capacity of older Australians to take part in their communities compounding the very real problem of isolation and loneliness," she said. "In an additional hit to many older people, AGL also foreshadowed new fees for over-the-counter payments and paper bills from October 2016."

Ms Mussared says many older South Australians are reliant on low and fixed incomes, with the Aged Pension undeniably low by comparison with other OECD countries.

"A recurring theme in our recent federal election consultations has been concern for the living standards of older people including those in private rental housing with little or no capacity to absorb increases to the cost of essential services.

"They do not have any opportunity to defray price increases by buying into alternative power sources such as solar.

"There is real anxiety already among older people in South Australia about the rising tide of co-payments and price increases and the diminishing relative value of the pension and other retirement incomes against these cost pressures.

"We're calling for the establishment of a sustainable Retirement Incomes System. This has become even more urgent this week," Ms Mussared said.

COTA SA is the peak body representing the rights, needs and interests of older Australians, with 17,000 individual members and 250 organisation members.

Further media information contact:
Amber Fromm - amber@communikate.net.au | 0400 324 220
Bec Tape - rtape@communikate.net.au | 0438 806 983

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